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Parental Involvement


U.S. News and World Report spent the past two years working with the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago to develop a reliable method for evaluating high schools. The research reveals that outstanding schools share several key traits. Conspicuously absent from that list of traits are strong extracurricular activities, detailed college advising, state-of-the-art facilities, or teachers with doctorate degrees. Instead, the research cites "partnerships between parents and schools that enhance the academic offerings of the school" as a key trait of top high schools. Principals from 80 percent of the outstanding high schools say parents are involved and supportive, compared with 68 percent at other schools.1

The study clearly indicates parental involvement has a positive effect on students' academic performance. The 1998 Metropolitan Life Survey of the American Teacher found that 87 percent of students who earn A's and B's cited their parents' involvement and aid as vital to their success, while half of those earning C's or worse said their parents had no interest in their schools. Of the top schools featured in this new study, some reported that more than 40 percent of all parents were active in school activities. One of these schools, Atlanta's Walton High School, created a Web site where parents can get daily updates on children's grades, attendance, teacher comments, and the school schedule.2 The schools themselves acknowledge that parents contribute to a top-quality education as much, if not more, than the school does.

The contribution of parents, however, does not stop at enhancing academic performance. As the study suggests, parents play a far more extensive part in their child's overall development. Research indicates that parental involvement may also serve to boost a child's aspirations. Joyce Epstein, director of Johns Hopkins University's Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships says, "Students' report card grades, attendance levels, and aspirations all increase if parents [are] involved at the high school level." With the support and involvement of parents, the outstanding schools studied by U.S. News and World Report inspire students to excel. Even teachers and administrators admit their inability to inspire students single-handedly.

Although a teenager may be reluctant to admit it, he needs his parents to encourage him to strive for excellence. A parent's proven love and gentle authority can motivate a student to spend those few extra minutes studying or spend Friday night working on a paper rather than going out with friends.

High school students may no longer require a daily lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with the crust cut off. They may not want to be quizzed on spelling words anymore, and they may not need their special He-Man lunch box washed every day. The newest data, however, is clear – they still need mom and dad.




1. U.S. News and World Report, January 18, 1999, p. 49.
2. Ibid., p. 74.